Just about no one disputes that Barnegat High School’s main field is in dire need of a fix. Experts fault problems with the drainage system for drenched soil that lasts for days. The District says that converting the natural grass to artificial turf is a viable alternative. But, is it safe?

Surprisingly, no one voiced concerns about prospective health or safety issues at a recent meeting called by Dr. Brian Latwis, Barnegat’s Superintendent of Schools.  However, that didn’t stop parents absent from the presentation from expressing their thoughts on social media.

Some cited studies regarding carcinogens associated with artificial turf. Others expressed their opinions that grass offers more cushioning and puts children at less risk for injury.

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As it turns out, the District already has some answers. Edwards Engineering Group, Inc. is the same engineering firm that did the study and proposal regarding the Barnegat High School Athletic Field. William Edwards, PC also shared information on artificial turf.

“The presentation spoke to the field’s safety and addressed some misinformation, “explained Latwis.

Artificial Turf Presentation

First generation artificial turf fields date back to the 1960s.  Edwards likens the surface to playing on pavement.  Frequent injuries were attributable to this generation of turf.  It is no longer in use.

The second generation of turf fields came around in the 1990s. They’re no longer in use either. Some parents who played sports may recall them as having a shag like appearance. One of the issues with this breed of turf was that it utilized lead chromate to stabilize color.

From 2006 until now, the third generation of turf fields came into existence.  Monofilament Polyethylene Fibers make up turf  and give it the look and play like grass. The product is made in the United States. Polyethylene does not contain lead and is approved for public drinking water.

"Ground up rubber crumbs or rubber crumb & sand infill creates a cushioned surface between the grass blades," explained Edwards. "The source of the rubber in most fields is recycled tires."

In some artificial turf fields, a sand mix is also placed in with the rubber.  The sand is screened and cleaned and comparable to beach sand.

Research done by the United States Department of Environmental Protection (EPA), shows no "elevated health risk from playing on fields with tire crumb rubber." Meanwhile, those who would like more information are welcome to attend a free webinar hosted by the federal government on August 6th.

Injuries on Turf Fields

The Journal of Sports Medicine evaluated whether soccer players on third generation artificial turf were at a greater risk than those who played on grass. The study concluded there were actually less injuries on artificial turf. Remarkably, no explanation was offered concerning the possible reductions in injury risk.

Edwards suggested that the studies show that Turf Fields are at least as safe as Natural Grass Fields.

Meanwhile, the engineer’s presentation also addressed what he labeled as “misinformation.” Edwards shared a television news story that featured a soccer coach. Coach Griffin claimed she heard from a nurse that some of her recent cancer patients were former soccer goalies.

“The Coach Griffin interview contained no scientific data or reliable control study of the information that was presented in the news story,” shared Edwards.

Additionally, it does not appear the network tracked down and interviewed the unnamed nurse.

Edwards further evaluated the coach’s claims and suggested that anyone concerned about health issues needs to ensure they are looking at controlled scientific studies. Public interest stories without them are subjective and unreliable.

The presentation summed up with a reminder to “believe actual scientific studies that are universally endorsed by the scientific and medical community.”

Ultimately, the choices made by Board of Education member won’t be just about money. Children’s health and safety remains critical to the decision-making process.

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at sfaughnan@tapinto.net.